Saturday, 20 January 2018

My Goals for 2018

A couple of readers asked what my goals were for 2018, and everyone knows I love a good old list, especially during the first weeks of a new year. They're like the blank pages of a new notebook: full of possibilities, dauntingly empty, and weirdly satisfying...

My goals for 2017 weren't written down - or if they were, I can't find them. But I know that I made a hell of a dent in my bucket list last year, and I crossed off some of the biggies including trips to the Shard, the London Eye, and even Paris! Readers of my first ever blog will know that I've always wanted to go there. The Eiffel Tower was even my blog's background at one point...

My main goal for 2018 is for it to be as good or even better than 2017. But I guess for the sake of this blog post I'll be slightly less vague...

1. Go to Paris again. You should know me by now: Paris will always be my #1 - it's not coming off the list! The original plan was to stay in the same apartment again but the AirBnB host has moved, so it's no longer available. I FELL IN LOVE WITH THAT APARTMENT. Also, I don't like change. Can you tell?

2. This time I'm hoping to fit in Disneyland. I've never been to any of them. It's very sad.

3. I caught the travel bug, so let's add Edinburgh, Brighton, New York, Amsterdam, and wherever else I end up through friends with similarly long lists of places to go.

4. I need to learn to drive on motorways. I wrote about the time I ended up on one by accident, right? And that was my first time. On my own. In an unfamiliar place with like 2% battery left on my phone. It properly put me off but I need to sort it out. If anyone has any tips on motorway anxiety, throw them at me PLEASE.

5. Finish a novel. Not necessarily the one I already have going, because I have a few fresh ideas that I'd like to get rolling... but work has taken over my life so, you know, I'll write like one word and that'll be it.

6. BUDGET. Oh my god. I already do, but let's just say I give myself a cut of my salary every month to live on, and just over two thirds of it goes on petrol, which leaves me with basically nothing left for anything else like my phone bill or that necessity called food. I need to sort myself out or get a pay rise. The former option seems more achievable.

7. Keep this blog going. You might've seen this blog post letting you all know that I'm slowing down on the blogging front - and I have - but I don't want it to end completely. No, I don't tweet a lot anymore. No, I don't have a blog post up every single week. No, my Instagram isn't updated daily like it used to be. But I am still here, and I'd like to continue to be. (Is it just me or does that sound way darker than I meant it to?)

8. Get a set of keys to my own house. Because I don't have any, and I live here. And I have lived here for an entire decade... interestingly I have only been locked out a couple of times during that period. *shrug*

9. Learn to cook a few more meals, because seriously, I am twenty-one years of age next year and my main dish is still pasta.

What are your goals for 2018?

Saturday, 13 January 2018

My Week-Long Internship at Little Tiger Group

No rest for the wicked, I came back from Paris (read about that here!) and immediately began my week-long internship at Little Tiger Group in London. It comprises of four imprints: Little Tiger, Stripes, Caterpillar and 360 Degrees. I was travelling to and from London every day, and by the end of it I was completely knackered, with a new hatred of public transport but also a fun and well-rounded week of publishing experience under my belt.

On Monday, I got to the office for 10am and read through all the information I would need, looking over the safety paperwork and getting the log-in details for various things. I had a few emails from Beth waiting in my inbox, one of which was a list of Little Tiger children's books which had been nominated for a prize and needed mailing to the judges. I've heard a few publishing interns (and publishing people themselves) say that they find mailings really tedious, but I actually quite enjoyed it. I'm so used to being on the receiving end of them that it was nice to be the one putting the books into envelopes and popping their address labels on.

I also had to schedule some tweets for the Little Tiger account, promoting an exhibition:

I learned how to use BooksoniX, which is a database used to collate all the information you could possibly need about a book. Information is pulled from BooksoniX to do everything from creating a product page on a retailer's website like Waterstones, to creating press releases, to simply providing the best quality image of a book's jacket.

On Tuesday, I was pulling together press coverage of Little Tiger Group books and adding it all to a spreadsheet before filing it away. Fun fact: some of my reviews were already on there, and if you're a book blogger who's covered one of their books, you probably are too! When I wrote a press release later in the week, the press tracker was really handy for grabbing quotes from others.

Then I went with Charlie and Beth to a meeting with someone from a well-known books website and watched as they expertly pitched books for coverage. After we got back to the office, I started hunting for Halloween-themed props for an Instagram photo I needed to take for the Stripes account, and was promptly sent out with a fiver for a pumpkin. On Halloween. I've been somewhat involved in bits and pieces of this industry for a few years but nothing has ever made me feel more publish-y than rushing around west London looking for the perfect pumpkin for one social media photo. To add to the drama, I was half-relying on Google Maps with just 1% of phone battery. Amber Kirk-Ford: living life on the edge since 1998.

I had Wednesday off for a birthday surprise my parents had arranged ages ago (which funnily enough ended up being in London anyway) but was back at 10am sharp on Thursday morning. This wasn't at the office but a cafe in Victoria for a meeting. Again, Charlie and Beth (this time joined by Lauren, the brand director) pitched their books and their authors over coffees and croissants. Irrelevant but quite funny: on my way there, I stopped to check Google Maps and looked up to see that I was right outside the doors of one of the head offices for where I actually work (you know, my actual job, not the dream job I got to have for the week...) The place haunts me, clearly.

When we got back and I'd had lunch, I wrote the copy for an autumnal competition to go live on the Little Tiger blog, which involved me Googling random facts about hedgehogs; someone has to think of competition questions, guys, and this time it was moi. After that was the comms meeting, which is a long communications meeting that happens every so often where departments get together and update each other on where they are with certain books and what's happening going forward. It lasted a few hours and it was fascinating to hear about coverage highlights (including blogs, Twitter chats, Instagrams, vlogs), their stats, and how they'd impacted sales.

And then it was Friday, my last day. And the worst day for trains, it seemed, with the one I was on deciding to terminate with no replacement. Yay!... When I eventually got into the office, I added some more coverage to the press tracker and wrote an entire press release for We Are Family by Patricia Hegarty and Ryan Wheatcroft. I also got to create the #UKYAHomeBook photo challenge run by the Stripes Instagram account which was so much fun! I came up with each day's prompt and then wrote a design brief to be sent to the arty people who make pretty things. It's probably my favourite thing that I worked on during the week. Look, das meeeeeee.

I did lots of other things too, and I'm kicking myself for not writing a quick recap every evening to make this blog post easier to write, but here's the bulk of it at least. It was such an interesting time and I'm so grateful to the team at Little Tiger for welcoming me into their office for the week. As well as the above, I got to hear about some great looking 2018 titles, and the ones I'm most excited for at the moment are: Girl Thursday by Joanna Nadin (described as being along the same lines as Louise Rennison), The Eye of the North by Sinead O'Hart, and How to Write a Love Story by Katy Cannon.

Click here to follow @LittleTigerUK on Twitter.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

It Only Happens in the Movies by Holly Bourne

Title: It Only Happens in the Movies
Author: Holly Bourne
Published by: Usborne
Publication date: 1st October 2017
Pages: 416
Genres: Young Adult/Contemporary/Romance
Format: Paperback
Source: Gift.

Audrey is over romance. Since her parents' relationship imploded her mother's been catatonic, so she takes a cinema job to get out of the house. But there she meets wannabe film-maker Harry. Nobody expects Audrey and Harry to fall in love as hard and fast as they do. But that doesn't mean things are easy. Because real love isn't like the movies...

The greatest love story ever told doesn't feature kissing in the snow or racing to airports. It features pain and confusion and hope and wonder and a ban on cheesy clich├ęs. Oh, and zombies... 

It's no secret that I wasn't around much in the latter half of 2017. I took a blogging break, and I failed my Goodreads challenge for the first time ever, reading only 28 books when my goal was 40. It Only Happens in the Movies is a book I've been consistently excited about since its publication was announced, but even though I received it for my birthday at the end of October, it was the end of December by the time I got round to reading it: one of three books I read between then and July... shock horror.

Long-term readers will know that Holly Bourne is one of my favourite writers, though, so if anyone could chisel through my work-induced exhaustion and reading slump, it would be her. I fell in love with Bourne's funny and feminist Spinster Club trilogy, but I was excited to read her first YA standalone since the trilogy's sad end. If you're expecting the same level of British grit and humour neatly wrapped up in feminist discussion and spot-on teenage dialogue as seen in Bourne's other books, you won't be disappointed. Our heroine, Audrey (yes, named after Audrey Hepburn) is doing Media Studies at A Level (ayyy, been there) and focusing her coursework on why love is never like the movies.

The start of most chapters is a short snippet of Audrey's essay. I usually hate additions like this - I want the main plot, not something that's going to slow it down - but it worked well and I found the length was perfect for me. Plus, y'know, her essay was genuinely interesting to me and if it was available in full I would 100% read and love it. The bits we did see made so many brilliant points about romance in film, as well as points about gender, expectation, and society as a whole. Audrey would get along well with Lottie from the Spinster Club.

I also enjoyed Harry and his work-in-progress zombie film, and the fact that his and Audrey's main interests were similar in that they could bounce ideas off each other, but different enough that they had space to do their own thing.

There's a reason she's one of the UK's most popular YA authors... once again, Holly Bourne has smashed it.